University Recreation at NC State University has a different approach to their branding and marketing than most campus recreation centers. They have adopted a take on the university’s branding and handle all marketing concerns in-house. They put their own spin on how they communicate with their audiences, but following the university’s brand standards is an important aspect when it comes to their marketing strategies.
Adam Sardinha, Marketing and Communications Specialist for the Department of University Recreation, explained the reason University Recreation at NC State is able to take on large-scaled projects is because they have a large staff, mainly students, working throughout the year on campaigns. With a traffic load of between 150 and 175 projects throughout the year, utilizing the students to accommodate the communication plans within those projects is vital.
“With our student staff, we usually employ about 22 students throughout the year, and they do the bulk of our in-house production,” said Sardinha. “All our marketing is done in-house, so that’s everything from graphic design, press writing, social media, photos and videos. We have a brand ambassador program where we go out and inform students face to face about our upcoming events, and that’s all done in-house. The students were kind of on the forefront of adopting this brand and embracing it. They are the biggest champions for the NC State brand and how University Rec portrays that.”
Judy Corsi, Visual Arts Specialist for University Recreation, said because the students have adopted the university’s framework it has motivated them to work more creatively. With students working on their marketing team and doing the bulk of the in-house campaigns, they strive to create a strong, professional front to make them stand out amongst the rest.
“We have a clear style that helps our brand look more sophisticated, rather than saying ‘oh that’s clearly student work,’” said Corsi. “The style really helps our students feel passionate about what they are doing and feel like they are making a difference, especially with the campaign we are working on currently, Pack in Action. They feel like they are contributing to something that’s bigger than them.”
Pack in Action is a campaign utilized on Instagram, aimed to get students thinking about how they live active and healthy lifestyles. According to Sardinha, the campaign is strong because it utilizes the saying as a hashtag, which enables the students to market the brand.
“One of the reasons we started Pack in Action was because we wanted to put storytelling and a style of marketing in the user’s experience,” said Sardinha. “There’s an authenticity factor in the user telling the story rather than the enterprise, and it kind of holds a little more weight than if a brand were to say ‘here’s what you need to know about us.’ We don’t do a lot of marketing on our social media platforms, instead we want to cultivate a conversation. That’s the main purpose of our social media channels. We want to hear what their stories are.”
Utilizing the staff they already have, rather than contracting outside marketing firms, allows the students to have real-life scenarios being thrown their way to prepare them for what will come in their future careers.
“For us, when it’s in-house we can touch it, we can plan it and we can meet with programmers,” said Sardinha. “We treat our marketing output as an agency. We encourage our students to meet with program directors and have face to face conversations. We want to prepare these marketing students for the jobs they want when they graduate.”